It swirls through the heart and then flows to all organs and parts of the body: How the blood flows through the veins of the body can now be observed in more detail than ever before thanks to an innovative system. The researchers use an innovative full-body PET / CT scanner in combination with a sophisticated image reconstruction technique. This makes it possible to create high-resolution real-time videos of blood flow and heart function. In the future, the technology could make it possible to keep an eye on the processes in several organs such as the brain and heart at the same time in order to uncover potentially problematic relationships.
Since the invention of X-ray technology, insights into the hidden structures and processes inside the body have revolutionized medicine. In the meantime, various methods have been developed that offer special possibilities for examination. One such modern imaging method is positron emission tomography (PET), which is today mostly linked to computed tomography (CT). In traditional PET, the patient is injected with a weakly radioactive substance (radiopharmaceutical), which then accumulates in certain organs or tissues depending on its characteristics. The scanner can record the radioactive radiation and so the contours of a tumor can be seen.
The whole body in view
Some metabolic processes in the body can also be traced using PET processes. As the researchers led by Jinyi Qi from the University of California at Davis have now succeeded in raising this procedure to an unprecedented level of performance. The whole body in viewThe technical basis is based on a 194 cm PET scanner called “EXPLORER” developed at the University of California at Davis. The innovative device can not only target certain areas of the body, but can simultaneously detect the radioactive marker substances in the whole body. As part of their study, the researchers now wanted to use the device to visualize the turbulent movements of the heart and blood flow in real time.
As you explain, data processing for image information was the big challenge. However, they finally succeeded in developing a method to suppress the “noise” in the data, thereby working out clear image information from the raw data. “The breakthrough of this work is that we can now deliver an ultra-fast and dynamic full-body image of the marker substances,” says Qi. “We can observe changes with improved image quality in a 100 millisecond cycle – this has never been achieved with any other medical imaging method,” said the scientist.
Refined data processing enables films
In a system test, a volunteer was injected with a short-lived radioactive marker substance in the lower leg while lying in the scanner. From the data collected, the researchers created a video in near real time, showing how this substance got to the heart via the bloodstream, finally flowed through the right chamber to the lungs, then back and on to the rest of the body. The video also depicted the movement of the heart with extraordinary clarity: changes in the characteristics of heart contraction were clearly visible, say the scientists.
While other techniques for measuring cardiac function are available, full-body scans with EXPLORER and innovative data processing now offer opportunities for new studies in which the dynamic processes in several organs can be examined simultaneously. “This could result in new types of examination for diseases of the cardiopulmonary system and cerebral blood flow,” concludes co-author Xuezhu Zhang the potential of the new method.
Source: University of California-Davis, Technical article: PNAS, doi: 10.1073 / pnas.1917379117